In May, 2003, Mothers Acting Up (MAU) will organise various events across the United States in an effort to celebrate and reclaim the original meaning of Mother's Day. In a dozen cities, parties and community events will be held to celebrate the role of mothers in caring for the worlds' children and to urge attention to factors like disease and debt that organisers claim impair mothers' ability to provide that care. In particular, the women hope to strengthen the bonds between American women and some of the most vulnerable women in the world by drawing attention to the millions of mothers and children who are dying of AIDS.
Communication Strategies: 

Community participation is the central strategy in this advocacy-based initiative. An 18-page parade packet, downloadable in PDF format on the MAU site, provides information and instructions related to this year's event, whose theme is "Protecting Our Global Family." This packet offers concrete tips to prospective parade planners, such as how-to's related to hosting press conferences and presenting actions that particular communities can take regarding the AIDS pandemic. The packet also includes Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation (which articulates Howe's 100-year-old vision: "mothers everywhere rising up together around that which unites" rather than divides women). A sample newspaper article, press release, and event flyer (including song lyrics) are also provided. Planners are urged to communicate with MAU personnel with questions, as well as to participate in monthly political actions on the MAU site.

To cite one example of a local event, on May 10, 2003 in Cincinnati, Ohio, citizens are encouraged to "run, don't walk, to Findlay Market to join moms, dads, and children as we parade around the Market House with noise makers to Celebrate the Power of Motherhood! All are invited to don their most spectacular hats, skirts, and costumes to meet the living spirit of Julia Ward Howe, the mother responsible for setting aside "Mother's Day". Join Ms. Howe and declare your personal commitment to speak out for the world's children and share your inspiration. And of course, take some time to celebrate your Power..."

The parades follow trips to South Africa and Zambia by a delegation of 40 women to South Africa and Zambia (April 21 to May 4, 2003). As part of the Bridges to the World Project, the women will meet with mothers, children, and healthcare workers, offering various kinds of assistance and emotional support. Upon their return, participating women will speak at the Mother's Day parades and at churches, clubs, news conferences, and the like around the country.

Development Issues: 

Debt, HIV/AIDS, Women, Children.

Key Points: 

Stephen Lewis, Special UN AIDS Envoy to Africa for Kofi Annan, has said, "AIDS has a woman's face." According to organisers, women contract AIDS more quickly and are less likely to get treatment, while doing the bulk of the work to care for the sick and the orphans. Ten million children have been orphaned due to AIDS; another child loses a parent every 14 seconds due to AIDS. African infants have also been contracting HIV/AIDS at high rates, both through mother-to-child transmission and through unclean needles used for vaccinations and what organisers deem inappropriate medical care. Approximately 1.5 million children are infected with HIV.

Sub-Saharan African countries spent $14.5 billion on foreign debt payments last year, much more than what is needed annually to curb AIDS on the continent.

Organisers envision a growing international dialogue between mothers. The women's delegations abroad and subsequent Mother's Day events will be annual, each highlighting mothers and children in need of the world's attention.

Partner Text: 

Sponsored by Jubilee USA, The Global AIDS Alliance, and Democratic Citizens Union.


Press release entitled "Women's Journey in Africa: Joining Hands to Fight AIDS And Debt" by Denise Hughes forwarded to the Gender-AIDS list server on April 22, 2003. Copyright GENDER-AIDS 2002 Click here to access the archives. Or email; and MAU site.